What is AWS Lambda

In the past few years, Amazon Web Services and other public cloud providers have continued to expand in both size and number of offerings, trying to win users through benefits such as convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. AWS Lambda is an essential part of the Amazon Web Services toolkit: it’s a serverless computing solution that can run code in response to a given event or trigger.

According to the AWS website, AWS Lambda lets you “run code without thinking about servers” and “pay only for the compute time you consume.” But what is AWS Lambda exactly, and is AWS Lambda the best serverless computing solution for you? In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the AWS Lambda service.

AWS Lambda is just one of your options for serverless computing. IronWorker is a powerful job processing solution with many advantages over AWS Lambda. Sign up today for a free 14-day trial of IronWorker.

Table of Contents

What is Serverless Computing?


To understand AWS Lambda, we first need to answer the question “what is serverless computing?”. The term “serverless computing” is actually a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t mean that the computing doesn’t use servers to run—servers are still very much involved in the process. Rather, it means that end users don’t have to worry about manually spinning up servers themselves. With serverless computing, these concerns are automatically handled by the cloud provider.

In fact, there are two types of services that both fall under the term “serverless computing”:

  • BaaS (backend as a service): The cloud provider is responsible for handling the application’s backend, including technical concerns such as database management and user authentication.
  • FaaS (function as a service): The cloud provider listens for events and executes the given code when a given request or trigger occurs. As such, the provider is responsible for turning the server on for the duration of the code’s execution, and then turning it off again upon termination.

You can think of FaaS serverless computing as like a utility in your home such as electricity or water. The utility “turns on” in response to an event, such as flipping a light switch or turning the faucet, and you pay only for the resources that you actually consume. As we’ll discuss in the next section, AWS Lambda falls into the latter category of FaaS.

What is AWS Lambda?

AWS Lambda is an event-driven serverless compute service. The code that you run on AWS Lambda can execute without the need for users to manually provision or manage servers.

How does AWS Lambda work in practice?

  • First, users upload their program code to the AWS Lambda platform, or write code in Lambda’s dedicated editor. This code is known as a “Lambda function.”
  • Next, users set the Lambda function to execute in response to a given event, request, or trigger (known as the “event source”).
  • The Lambda function will execute inside a container only when the given event or trigger occurs. AWS Lambda is responsible for provisioning the server and shutting it down upon the Lambda function’s termination.

For example, you could set a trigger every time someone uploads an image to a particular Amazon S3 storage bucket. When a new image arrives, your Lambda function can resize it and convert it into a thumbnail image.

Serverless computing solutions like AWS Lambda are also useful for time- and resource-intensive processes like ETL. Rather than running at scheduled intervals, you can set your ETL process to run only when new data arrives, so that you aren’t wasting compute resources on the same set of data.

By default, AWS Lambda includes the following runtime environments: Node.js, Python, Ruby, Java, Go, and .NET. You can also use other programming languages with a custom runtime interface.

As you can imagine, AWS Lambda has the potential to increase your efficiency, and cut your cloud computing expenses, by orders of magnitude. Rather than keeping a server on 24/7, you pay for only those resources that you actually use.

AWS Lambda Alternatives: AWS Lambda vs. Iron.io


While AWS Lambda has a lot to recommend it, it’s always worth investigating some of the alternatives and competitors to AWS Lambda. So what are some of the best AWS Lambda alternatives?

If you’re looking for an AWS Lambda substitute, look no further than IronWorker. IronWorker is a flexible work-on-demand platform that makes it easy to scale your container-based workloads. With IronWorker, you can spend less time on technical minutiae and more time doing what you do best—building and deploying enterprise-class applications.

But how does IronWorker stack up against alternatives like AWS Lambda? Like AWS Lambda, IronWorker is a serverless compute solution that frees you from having to The benefits of IronWorker over AWS Lambda include:

  • The ability to run in multiple environments, including the public cloud, on-premises, dedicated servers, and a hybrid solution that combines on-premises and the cloud.
  • Support for all major programming languages, including Ruby, PHP, Python, Java, Node.js, Go, and .NET.
  • An easy learning curve and excellent customer support.

IronWorker has received high marks on the business software review website G2, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Reviewer James C. says that IronWorker and Iron.io have helped his company “harness the efficiency of the cloud”:

“We used Iron.io as a one-stop shop to help us get onto the cloud and tune our services to get cloud efficiencies. It was overwhelming looking at the many disparate services that need to have the dots connected to get underway with the cloud, so giving this problem to Iron made things much easier as we had a single touch point… The result has been a drastic reduction in the AWS spend we have been getting, as we are finally optimized to take advantage of the elasticity that cloud computing offers.”


AWS Lambda is a powerful, feature-rich serverless compute AWS service—but it’s far from the only serverless computing platform on the market. In the battle of AWS Lambda vs. IronWorker, there are several good reasons to go with IronWorker: support for on-premises deployments as well as public and private clouds; ease of setup, use, and maintenance; strong user reviews; and much more.

Interested to see what IronWorker has to offer for your serverless computing needs? Learn why companies like Twitter, Philips, Whole Foods, and Bleacher Report have all used IronWorker to gain more control over their job processing needs. Get in touch with the Iron.io team for a chat about your business objectives, as well as a free trial of IronWorker.

Start your free 14-day trial of IronWorker today.

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